Lenoir-Rhyne Football Coach Drew Cronic has been named the NCAA Division II American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) National Coach of the Year as announced Tuesday. In his first season at the helm, Cronic turned the Bears from a 3-win team in 2017 to a 12-win program this year, the largest turnaround in Division II.
The 12 wins in 2018 marked the second-highest total in program history and Cronic led the Bears to a trip to the Super Region 2 Finals for just the second time in team history. The Bears won 12 straight games this year and didn't lose a game for over three months.
Despite being picked to finish sixth in the South Atlantic Conference preseason poll, the Bears went a perfect 7-0 in league play to capture the eighth SAC Championship all-time.
The Bears entered the National polls on Oct. 22 when they were ranked No. 24 in the nation. LR would move up to No. 21 the following week and No. 17 in the final regular season rankings. After the Playoffs were wrapped up, LR was ranked No. 8 in the final AFCA National rankings.
Cronic's offense produced some record-breaking numbers in his inaugural season. QB Grayson Willingham’s 26 touchdowns shattered the previous single-season record of 18 and his 2,281 yards ranks as the second-most in team history. The 2,570 team passing yards and 30 team passing touchdowns are new records, along with 574 points scored.
13 different players won an award under Cronic this season, highlighted by a National Special Teams Player of the Week honor going to Kyle Dugger. Sherrod Williams won three SAC Defensive Player of the Week awards and Jason Poe won the Jacobs Blocking Trophy and was named First Team All-Region.
This marks the second National Coach of the Year honor in program history, Clarence Stasavich earned the same distinction in 1959. As an Athletic Department, Lenoir-Rhyne has four National Coaches of the Year with two (Cronic and Greg Paradine – Men’s Lacrosse) coming a month apart.